Friday, July 17, 2009


After more than ten months of shingles (the affliction started on Sept. 15, 2008), I continue to have pressure, itching and aching in the area above my left eye (the eyelid, the skin between the lid and brow, the eyebrow, and the forehead).
In rating the nastiness from a one to 10 (worst), I would say that my continuing problem is generally a 3 moving up to a 4 once in while. Every morning, I get up to itchiness, relieved somewhat by eye drops (Systane Ultra) which I apply twice day, per my ophthalmologist’s recommendation. Several times a day, I splash cold water on my eye for momentary relief and I find that taking a hot bath or shower relieves the symptoms somewhat.
Fatigue still hits me whenever I do any substantial work or exercise. I continue on a reduced exercise routine: stretches and 25 sit-ups in the morning, followed by a mile-and-a-half walk and tai chi. A few months ago, I tried to return to my full exercise program, which is much extensive than the one cited—and I became so exhausted barely made it home in the half-mile walk from my local park. I don’t do push-ups because of the discomfort I feel in the area around the eye.
Recently, my wife, Rae, got the anti-shingles vaccine (Zostavax) which was approved only three years ago by the FDA. With the vaccine, one has about 50-50 chance of avoiding shingles. For someone who has endured it for ten months—and faces months or years more, the 50-50 odds of escaping shingles seems like a worthwhile choice.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

THE DANCER UPSTAIRS by Nicholas Shakespeare

Nicholas Shakespeare wrote THE DANCER UPSTAIRS twice—as an intriguing novel in 1995 and a screenplay that became a riveting film in 2002. I wish I could have read the screenplay, but I was unable to find a copy either for sale or free on the internet.
An aspiring screenwriter would do well to read the novel and then to watch the film. As good as the novel was, the film, directed by John Malkovich, was even better. In the transition from novel to film, Shakespeare trimmed away a few characters and did very little reshaping of the story. This is a study in how to translate a novel onto the screen without damaging the plot or central characters.
The seed of the story, of course, is the capture of Abimael Guzmán who led the brutal Shining Path revolutionaries in Peru. In the novel, the narrator is Dyer, an enterprising journalist, who stumbles across Agustín Rejas, the detective who tracked down President Ezequiel (based on Guzman), the mysterious leader of the murderous revolutionaries. Rejas’ story unfolds in a series of interviews with Dyer in a restaurant. Dyer and a few other minor characters are excised in the transition from novel to screenplay.
I have seen the film four times and read the novel only after my entrancement with THE DREAM DANCER in its movie form. I gave the novel and the film as a birthday present to my son, Ken, who is an aspiring screenwriter.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST, is now available as a free download on, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.
Try it, enjoy it, and if you are in the mood, review it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

I was going through the ecstasy of eating half a Krainerwurst on a hot dog roll along with a nicely-chilled Stella Artois when I realized that I was the winner of the real sausage-eating contest: the one in my backyard, eating a single serving for pleasure (and lunch).
Every July 4th Nathan’s Famous holds a hot dog eating race in Cony Island in which the goal is to jam as many sausages and buns into the mouth and down the gullet as possible in 10 minutes. Just considering this display of gluttony has always made my stomach churn.
This year after hearing that Joey Chestnut, last year’s champion, topped his 2008 record of 59 hot dogs by downing 68 (note I say downing not eating or enjoying), I watched part of a video of the competition, I gagged and turned it off.
I have to admit I prefer Krainerwurst to hot dogs and I’m super-lucky to be able to shop for those delightful sausages at the Forest Pork Store in Huntington Station, NY. A Krainerwurst, for the uninitiated, is smoked bratwurst. Forest Pork makes its own Krainerwurst.
My approach to Krainerwurst is to slice it in half, the long way, to grill or fry for five minutes, and to eat each half on a hot dog roll without any other embellishments: no mustard, no sauerkraut, no onions, no relish, no ketchup. The reason: the Krainerwurst has a taste alone that brings joy to the palate.

A suggestion: My latest novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.